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Niemo’s Notes | nc state – A Tale of Two Halves

What went wrong in the First Half:

  • Tech came out at practice speed, not game speed.  The eight day layoff really seemed evident in the first half, VT was rusty.  Sidney Lowe noticed the same thing about his team last year, and as a result, scheduled a cupcake (nc central) this week to keep the guys in game shape.  Greenberg/Weaver might have to look into this next year.
  • This has become an issue all year long: Tech’s low-post defenders allowed the nc state big men to catch the ball way too close to the hoop.  Then, the pack players were backing the Hokies down with ease.  When an ACC-caliber player is shooting a two-foot hook/jumper, they are going in 80-90% of the time.  It almost looked like a practice drill.  Let the offensive guy receive the ball low and do his move, instead of forcing him out or fronting him.  Tracy Smith, who averaged just 8 ppg coming in, had 13 in the first half.
  • The Hokies don’t get a lot of easy buckets in transition.  But they counter that by not giving up any.  VT wins because they force you to earn every point in the half court set.  This was not the case in the first half.  On numerous occasions, a Hokie defender blew an assignment and a wolfpack player was left wide open for an easy deuce.  Again, this was likely due to rust.  Also…
  • Lazy passes:  Hudson had a couple in the first half, though he was not alone.  These led to some easy breakaways for state.
  • Bad fouls:  Allen committed yet another foul 80 feet from the hoop.  This was his second foul and cost him the final 10 minutes of the half, a half he had nine points in and was Tech’s best offensive weapon.
  • Losing focus:  At the end of the half, the Hokies completely lost their cool.  While that is acceptable for Greenberg to an extent, as he was making a point and his technical was probably the right thing to do to send a message, the Hokies didn’t respond.  Instead, Vassallo forced a bad shot down 10 in the final 80 seconds, followed by an easy bucket for state.  Then, Tech could have held for the last shot, but instead shot the ball with 20 seconds left, giving state another possession.  On that possession, it looked like Tech had already checked out for the half.  Tracy Smith was left wide open inside for an easy flush.  The result: a 9-0 run by the pack and a 14 point halftime deficit.
  • Tech allowed 49 first half points to a team that had only surpassed 70 points in regulation once in their previous seven ACC games.

What went right in the Second Half:

  • Extend pressure on the ball:  Greenberg actually made this adjustment late in the first half and it paid big dividends.  nc state’s guards are weak.  Similar to what Delaney does at times, the pack ballhandlers will pick up their dribble 30 feet from the basket if pressured.  This keeps them from setting up their offense and being able to feed the ball inside on the first pass.  This bogged down state’s offense and forced them to put Costner on the perimeter to receive that first pass.
  • Front the low-post players or force them farther out:  J.T. Thompson by far is the best at this for the Hokies.  In the second half, he was working his tail off to keep McCauley or Smith or Costner from catching the ball down on the low block.  Jeff Allen also did a much better job at this.  You have to root the guys out from inside, or simply set up where they want to be before they get there.  If they do get position, front them.  When state could not feed the ball inside, it exposed how weak their offense was.  Tracy Smith, after 13 first-half points, had a big goose egg in the final 25 minutes.
  • Defensive intensity:  Greenberg was imploring the team (and crowd) to pump up the intensity on every possession in the second half.  It worked.  nc state only made one field goal between the 13:30 and 2:10 mark of the second half.  As a result, the pack only scored 13 points in the final 13:30 and had just 27 points all told in the second period.
  • Versatile Vassallo: Courtney Fells had A.D. on lockdown on the outside.  As a result, Vassallo did not hit a three in the game.  So A.D. focused on penetrating and either shooting midrange jumpers, shooting runners/floaters, or backing defenders like Costner down in the paint and showing that he has moves with his back to the basket.  A.D. was an impressive 10/14 on two-point shots.
  • Killer instinct:  For whatever reason, VT knows they are going to win in overtime.  Just chalk up the ‘W’ for VT and start the bus to Raleigh once that game goes to the extra period.  The Hokies have won eight straight ACC overtime games.  They need this confidence late in close games.  Treat the final five minutes like OT.  Plus, nc state expects to lose close games like that.  They are used to it.  VT had the confidence on their side.

For the whole game though, Tech’s defensive rebounding was terrible.  The biggest play of the game, if Tech hadn’t come back and won, would have been that missed free throw by Tracy Smith late in the first half.  At the time state was up six.  Grab that rebound, and the foul on Delaney and the subsequent technical on Seth would never happen.  It seems at times like the only way the Hokies will get the ball back is if the other team scores, turns the ball over, or it gets knocked out of bounds.  Not good.

Summary: The wolfpack monkey is off our backs!  The Hokies now sit at 5-3 at the halfway mark of ACC play.  I think we all would have taken this before the duke game (and certainly after it).  Tech could have easily won the clemson or at bc games, but should have lost this one.  So things sort of evened out. 

The Hokies were 5-3 at this point last season.  They responded with a three game losing streak, followed by a four game winning streak, and then a loss in the regular season finale.  Tech cannot afford a three game slide now.  The next three games are all very winnable: ga tech (1-8), @maryland (4-5), and @uva (1-7).  The Hokies need to go at least 4-4 the rest of the way to keep alive NCAA Tournament hopes (and then likely need to win one in the ACC Tournament).  To do that, they need at least two of these next three.  Hopefully, that run starts with a win over the ACC’s last place team on Wednesday at the Cassell.

This post was written by:

- who has written 1221 posts on Tech Hoops.

Niemo is a member of the VT Class of '98. While not a professional journalist by any stretch, Niemo analyzes and breaks down every minute of Hokie hoop action. He also researches topics of interest such as Hokie recruits, program revenue, statistical data on the team, previews VT opponents, and discusses his favorite bourbons/Scotches. In addition to his passion for Hokie hoops, Niemo has attended 126 straight VT football home games (every game since '94), eclipsing the 100 mark in September of '09 and recently attended his 20th consecutive VT/uva game. During the final home basketball game of his senior year, he was brought onto the court and was awarded 2 passes to the Atlantic 10 Basketball Tournament in Philly during a timeout for being a "Super Fan" during his time at VT. The Hokie Bird made the award on behalf of Athletic Director Jim Weaver. Niemo was known to be in the front row of every home game with his familiar red afro hairdo.

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  • DuffHokie

    I was expecting to read at least a line or two about the officials. But otherwise all good points made.

    We really need to step up on the rebounds. I believe this is our biggest challenge going into the 2nd half of the ACC games.

  • Niemo

    Cope covered the officiating pretty thoroughly. And I tend to avoid it anyway. I learned in HS that they are awful. A coach once told me something that I really liked: “A foul is anything that looks like a foul.” When you think about it that way, you sometimes understand the calls they make. That and they are bitter old men in too tight of pants.

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